BALTIMORE—Everyone knows how much difference there is between the Boston Red Sox and the Orioles, so it was no surprise that the Red Sox swept the Orioles in four straight games this weekend.
But, at times, the Orioles teased their fans into thinking they had a chance. By the end of Sunday, no one had to be convinced that the Red Sox were the team with the best record in baseball (85-35) and the Orioles the team with the worst (35-84).
Chris Sale toyed with the Orioles. He struck out 12 of the 16 batters he faced in five innings. Sale was removed as a precaution after a short stint on the disabled list because of shoulder inflammation. In his last four starts, Sale has pitched 24 scoreless innings, allowing just 12 hits.
The Orioles lost to the Red Sox, 4-1, striking out 18 times — a season high for a nine-inning game.
“What you talk about is how close the games were … they get the tack-on run late or two,” manager Buck Showalter said.
“That’s what we did when we were real competitive. Those are the type of things you have to do. Obviously, they are more than just a good offensive club. I think the point I would make is you see what our record is and see what their record is, but realizing that in all four games there were moments where we were very close to winning the game. It’s not like it was … but that’s what happens at this level — the small separators, and sometimes that’s an experience factor, too.”
The Orioles don’t have pitchers like Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello. They don’t have a closer like Craig Kimbrel or everyday players like Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez.
Their recent fire sale has only accentuated the differences between the teams.
“That’s a World Series-contending team right there,” pitcher Alex Cobb said.
“They’re built to win it this year. We just went through a major overhaul of transforming this into something that it was two months ago into what it is now. We know that there’s going to be growing pains that are going to come with our season this year and possibly into next season and after the year after that maybe.”
Cobb continued his run of strong starts. In his last six starts, Cobb has an ERA of 2.17, but just one win. Unfairly, his record drops to 3-15, and his season ERA to 5.31.
“Outstanding. He was great,” Showalter said. “He’s been that way for a while now. He’s been solid. When you think about in time of need, with our bullpen situation, that was as good as you can expect.”
The Orioles suffered a four-game sweep for the fourth time this season. They’re a season-worst 49 games under .500, and an incredible 49 ½ games behind Boston in the American League East.
With 43 games remaining, the Orioles will have to go 28-15 to avoid losing 100 games. In order to escape the worst record in franchise history (54-107 in 1988), they must win 20 of the 43 games left.
“We’re all competitors. and we’re all in the big leagues so we are capable of making those adjustments and just want to keep making adjustments pitch to pitch,” shortstop Tim Beckham said.
“Just grind it out. This game is a grind. We’re going to grind it out until the end of this season, no matter what our record is, no matter if we’re going to the playoffs or not. We all have pride in here. So that’s what we’re intent to feeling. We have pride. We’re going to play to win no matter what our record is, no matter how many games we have left.”
When the Orioles signed Cobb near the end of spring training, some observers thought that could make the team competitive, perhaps even a wild-card team. That has hardly been the case, and the classy veteran has had to endure the worst season of his career.
“We know there’s a lot of work that we need to do,” Cobb said. “Our goal is to end up having teams feel like we did after this series when we leave their town. We need to do a lot. We need to do every aspect of the game better. That progression starts now.”
Mark Trumbo didn’t start for the second straight game. He was used as a pinch-hitter Saturday night and made the last out of Sunday’s game. Trumbo has soreness in his right knee and might receive an injection by team orthopedist Dr. Leigh Ann Curl.
Showalter hoped that Trumbo would be able to play Tuesday when the New York Mets arrive for a two-game series.
Villar at short
For the first time since he joined the Orioles, Beckham, who has been struggling at short, was a healthy scratch in Saturday night’s game. Jonathan Villar played shortstop for the first time since Sept. 12, 2016.
“I think Jonathan’s got enough reps there,” Showalter said. He’ll get some periodic looks there, just to verify what we think. If you look at his track record, he’s got a number of games at shortstop.”
Beckham has two more years before free agency, and the Orioles want to see what they have in him.
“I really want to give Tim a good look there as much as we can,” Showalter said.
“There’ll be a lot of things between now and the end of the season. We’ll get [Steve] Wilkerson out there some.”
Wilkerson is rehabbing an oblique injury and may not join the Orioles until the rosters expand Sept. 1.
Showalter displeased with Wendelstedt
Before the game, Showalter took the lineup card out to home plate himself. He rarely does that except before the first game of a series, but he wanted to make a point and pulled aside third base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt for a private chat.
Showalter was unhappy with Wendelstedt’s performance behind the plate in Saturday night’s game. He thought Wendelstedt had insulted his team.
“Like I told the umpire last night, our guys have bubble gum cards, too. Maybe not as lucrative numbers as their guys,” Showalter said.